Woman in STEM wins Acceptance to HBS, Kellogg, MIT Sloan, and Berkeley Haas

Roja’s road to Harvard Business School was a long one. Both due to the fact that she started preparing early for her MBA applications (almost a year in advance from the submission deadlines), and also because she needed to defer her enrollment one year after receiving the offer. 

Applicant Stats


  • Undergraduate Institution
    Dartmouth College
  • Pre-MBA Industry: 
    Tech (hardware)
  • Career Goals: 
  • Admitted At:
    Harvard, Kellogg, Haas, MIT
  • Coach:

Roja’s Challenges

#1: No Support Network of Fellow Applicants 

When Roja decided to apply to business school, she was in a hardware engineering role and did not know anyone else who had gone through–or was going through–the arduous MBA application process. She came to Menlo Coaching seeking support and guidance, and wanted to complete the admissions journey leaving no stone unturned. 

I didn’t want to feel alone in the process. I wanted someone who knew the ins and outs of what the admissions committee is looking for. 

Roja admits now that the application process was much more intensive than she initially thought and comments that she benefitted from our structured approach. 

Moreover, connecting with the Menlo Coaching community exceeded her expectations; she was able to network with other MBA applicants working through the same process via group sessions, and even met up with a fellow Menlo Coaching client in-person!

#2: Crafting the Right Personal Statement

Roja was worried about creating a compelling personal story; as an engineer, she did not want her essays to be overly crafted or to feel like a cliche. She also knew she needed to differentiate herself from the competitive and saturated “Indian engineer” bucket. 

Knowing my story was like peeling an onion. You know when someone asks you where you’re from you have a chronological story. They ask a little bit more, maybe you talk about your family and friends, maybe some of the different nationalities you’ve interacted with and what that meant for you. But asking deeper and deeper questions, even for your own self realization, takes a lot of time.

Although some parts of Roja’s story related to her professional experiences, they showed her personal values–like standing firmly for non-discriminatory policies in hiring. And on the personal side, Roja showed how moving from India to the US and then to Europe led to personal growth at each stage.

Challenge #3: Deferring the MBA Offer

Because of Visa-related issues, there was no way Roja could join with the current year’s entering MBA class. After receiving four offers (HBS, Kellogg, UC Berkeley Haas, and MIT Sloan), she needed to communicate this request in the best and most appropriate way–she did not want to seem as if she were just accepted and already making demands!

To tactfully communicate to the admissions officer […] requires some thought and clarity. And David continued to help me towards that. And it was a very stressful time for me, so I really, thank you very much, David. 

The schools handled this request differently, causing shifts in the game plan and constant adaptation. For example, Kellogg responded within a day and agreed to defer Roja’s enrollment; they even stated that she could carry over her full-scholarship to the next year! Harvard Business School was a different story. After receiving an initial, “No,” we helped Roja restructure her arguments and create a compelling case for deferral. After a long waiting period, they granted her request, and she postponed her HBS enrollment to the following year.

Want to hear more admissions case studies from real MBA candidates? Check out our collection of Applicant Stories.